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Friday, September 15, 2006

'Governmental Commission' mandate designed to shift blame away from Olmert-Peretz-Livni government

There's good news and bad news on the investigation into the war in Lebanon. The good news is that the cabinet on Sunday is likely to approve the 'governmental committee' that will investigate the war. The bad news is that the 'governmental committee' will not have all the powers that a true commission of inquiry would have, and that its mandate has already been 'fixed' in a blatant attempt to shift blame away from the Olmert-Peretz-Livni government.

The committee will be headed by retired justice Eliyahu Winograd, and will also include two reservist major generals, Menahem Einan and Haim Nadel (whose appointment was approved Thursday), and two academics - law professor Ruth Gavison and professor of public administration Yehezkel Dror. Haaretz reports that according to the committee's letter of appointment:
it will "investigate, draw conclusions and submit recommendations, as it sees fit, about the political echelon and defense establishment, with regard to all aspects of the war in the north that began on July 12, 2006." It will "also address, as it sees fit, the political echelon's conduct with regard to preparations and readiness for belligerent incidents and threat scenarios since the Hezbollah organization began digging itself in on the northern border, from diplomatic, military and civilian standpoints."

The latter clause means that the committee will also investigate Ehud Barak and Ariel Sharon's governments, which were in power between Israel's unilateral withdrawal from Lebanon in May 2000 and the Olmert government's inauguration this spring. [In other words, the Olmert-Peretz-Livni government will at least be 'sharing' the blame rather than taking all of it. CiJ]

The committee will also examine the defense establishment's "preparedness and readiness for the threat from Lebanon, including intelligence preparations, force building and preparing the forces for the various threat scenarios," as well as "the conduct of the fighting; the activation of forces, including the Home Front Command; and the systems that gave support and assistance during the fighting, including the decision-making processes."

This means that in addition to examining current office holders, the committee will examine the conduct of every defense minister, chief of staff, GOC Northern Command, head of Military Intelligence, and air force, navy and ground forces commander since Israel left Lebanon in 2000. [Again, this is an attempt to shift some of the blame away from the Olmert-Peretz-Livni government. CiJ]

The committee was also asked to make recommendations "to improve the future decision-making processes of the political echelon and the heads of the defense establishment, including the materials and advice available to these parties." The Prime Minister's Office hopes this will encourage the committee to focus on recommendations for the future rather than assigning blame for the past [yet another attempt to shift blame away from the Olmert-Peretz-Livni government. CiJ].
Arutz Sheva adds:
Olmert continues to resist continuing widespread calls for an authoritative investigative commission that can subpoena witnesses and essentially fire high-ranking officials. Instead, he has appointed a five-man commission that will attempt to investigate how both the government and the military ran the recent war - but that will not have the authorities a State Commission would have.
Arutz Sheva also reports that opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu and Labor party minister Ofir Pines-Paz have proposed that retired (as of yesterday) Chief Justice Aharon Barak be appointed to head a real commission of inquiry. Barak has agreed to serve if he is asked, but Olmert is not asking. Pines-Paz and three other Labor party ministers plan to vote against the 'governmental commission' in Sunday's cabinet meeting, but the votes of the Kadima Achora v'haTzida, Shas and the 'Pensioners' party ministers will be sufficient to ensure that the 'governmental commission' passes the cabinet.

For the Hebrew-impaired, Achora v'haTzida means backwards and sideways. Kadima means forward. (Just want to make sure you all catch on to my warped sense of humor).


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